How Does It Feel To Be Loved?
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Reviews of Saturday Looks Good To Me


Popmatters


Nearly every single time Saturday Looks Good to Me has been mentioned by the music press, its leader Fred Thomas has been compared to Phil Spector. That might not change with the band’s new album Fill Up the Room, but it probably will. The reason Thomas might deserve the Spector comparison is the way he has amassed a tiny empire of releases in recent years and the fact that those releases are a testament to how well he writes songs for other people to sing. Those are possibly reasons why the comparison is so often made, too, though the main one is definitely how strongly most Saturday Looks Good to Me songs have used Spector and the “girl-groups” sound as a musical template. That isn’t true of Fill Up the Room, as it wasn’t of the even odder EP that preceded the album, Cold Colors.

Fill Up the Room definitely has traces of the 1960s pop and rock that Thomas so clearly loves: not just Spector but the Stones, Beatles, Beach Boys and so on. But its starting place is more of a seeking, questioning kind of orchestral folk-rock, seemingly influenced by a band whose style shone clearly on some of Thomas’ more obscure solo records: Neutral Milk Hotel. More precisely, it was Jeff Mangum himself whose mark could be felt on those solo records, and here too. It isn’t just the big-band, multi-instrument approach that Thomas is adopting. It’s mostly a style of songwriting based on visceral imagery and litanies of words, twisting in circles and mazes of melodies. Fill Up the Room heads in that direction without completely abandoning the short-and-sweet tack of the past. Anyone who likes the band mostly for the sugary, hook-filled tunes won’t be disappointed. They’ll just find the hooks living in a much different context. They’ll find a band no longer satisfied with just playing catchy pop songs.

This doesn’t represent an abrupt shift. The new style is an outgrowth not just of the ‘Fred Thomas’ releases but also the acoustic, solo-like songs on previous Saturday Looks Good to Me albums (“When the Party Ends” off Every Night, for example). But it is a new style, and Thomas seems determined to build Saturday Looks Good to Me into more of a proper band, around it, while still maintaining his place at the front. He sings lead most of the way through, excepting one song. And the number of instruments he plays bests that of any of the other 11 musicians listed as contributing. He plays guitars, bass, drums, piano, glockenspiel, tape loops and more. But he also has a tight band playing behind him, as he has on recent tours. Here he leads them through carefully arranged songs that occasionally turn sideways into wilder, if still restrained, jams.

Thomas also often employs devices that, purposefully or not, remind us how songs manipulate time and a certain type of space. A drone-like moment of near-silence comes halfway through “Money in the Afterlife”, making the song all the more forceful when it picks back up. Snippets of vocals, cut from the middle of a song, emerge again as the song fades: faintly there, like fading memories. Change is clearly a musical theme of Fill Up the Room. The album seems possessed by the notion that the snappy little pop songs of the band’s past were baby steps towards something greater. It’s an idea the lyrics approach as well. Thomas begins the second song, “(Even If You Die on the) Ocean”, like this: “I found the garden gate unlocked / so I went in and picked the perfect spot / where I could bury my youth.”

The “everybody dies” sentiment of that same song is just one reference to mortality on the album. The album is a body of change for the band, but the lyrics continually reference bodies: as a signpost of time passing, a manifestation of emotions and a means of action. On various songs, Thomas sings of eyes that go blind, lungs that shut down, hands buried in the snow (on two songs), teeth that grind, skin that shrinks, long-distance lovers acutely aware of the distance between their bodies, heartbroken ex-lovers whose memories are wrapped in skin. “Come With Your Arms” is a dark love song phrased in terms of the body. “Whitey Hands” is a lighter one that ends “Hold your hands up / and let that be our love.” “Let your body be a house,” Thomas sings earlier in that same song. If houses are filled with ghosts of the past, bodies are filled with those of the past and present.

Musically Fill Up the Room is also the most physical Saturday Looks Good to Me album. Thomas and bandmates fill the space of each song with more instruments than before, and hit them harder. They also occasionally sing as a chorus. The dynamic way the band members sing and play together resonates with the songs’ references to bodies and to raising voices up, whether to the sky, someone else or yourself. Fill Up the Room is filled with partly told stories of heartbreak and pain, but there’s also a strong sense of hope, one embodied by the music as well. The album cover image is of people raising their hands in the air, rays of light shining from them.


Pitchfork

Fresh off the Polyvinyl boat, Saturday Looks Good to Me release Fill Up the Room, their seventh full-length album and first on K Records. Finally the array of comparisons critics have made regarding this band is to be found in its entirety on the same release. The moody crescendos and meanderings of Fred Thomas' voice cut slices of Stephin Merritt; the shimmying guitars on "Money in the Afterlife" suggest the dance-rock quirks and pop romances of Vampire Weekend, BOAT, and the Brunettes. These great discrepancies of mood and genre slant are welcome as standalone pieces and contributions to the band's already hodgepodge oeuvre. So as a collection, the album is fitful and pleasantly disconcerting, a far cry even from July's Cold Colors EP, which was a wintry aperitif to this full-length's sweet, sultry, and dimly sentimental refreshments.

Gone is the muddled production of SLGTM's accomplished singles collection Sound on Sound: here are close-set guitars, warm and furry vocals, and best of all, fully intelligible, wise and realistically poignant lyrics. "When I Lose My Eyes", with an accomplished melody of flits of speedy, echoic guitar, warm washes of sustains, and rhythmic twists, paints an actual scenario-- grounded, concrete, and heavy-- after a long instrumental intro. Thomas sings wistfully, "Me and my best friend/ Sleep without any clothes/ With books on the bedspread/ In languages no one knows/ All the windows are open/ All of the low lights glow/ And we flood all the rooms of our homes/ 'til we float/ And wash out to the street down below." The heady mix of plugging guitars in the left channel and powerful drums in the right soon gives way to a lighter two-step rhythm, string quartet, and more than a little hint of SLGTM's sometime collaborator Ted Leo, whose sheer single-handed guitar power is aptly appropriated here. The vocal-free exit, rife with thumping drum rushes and strummed monotony, pulls the song to a weighty vocal climax of soaring whines-- so the song is worth a whole paragraph.

The rest of the album owes a lot to opener "Apple", which borrows more from the band's earliest influences, particularly the carefree narratives and expressive vocals of 1960s rock, which are here turned into a boldly romantic vocal swoon: "I could fill up the room/ With these things/ I've been thinking about you." It forces optimism about the rest of the album and recalls the sensitive, enveloping atmosphere of Menomena's latest, which took us on a retreat where rock songs could be bold and heartfelt missives. Later, indebtedness to Stuart Murdoch may nauseate some listeners on "Peg", but when paired with any other track on the album, Thomas' voice is easily understood as more expressive than one track allows-- each song gives a glimmer of the inflections he will give it elsewhere, as with the whiny, brassy yelps of the simple guitar-pop song "Money in the Afterlife".

Some of the songs stutter and stumble, though they're actually the opposite, rhythmically speaking: The clap-happy "Edison Girls" is precise and danceable, but it drawls too heavily in Southern reflections by the electric guitar and Thomas' rhyming adorability is overdone. Betty Marie Barnes' one vocal contribution to this album is the disappointing "Hands in the Snow", a light, fluffy, precisely metered B&S tribute. Enveloping the handful of dull middle songs on the album is aching opener "Apple" and exit track "Whitey Hands", which experiments with a kind of homemade dulcimer, more organic hand claps, and Thomas' voice, which swoops and soars around a beautifully understated rhythm. It's yet more confirmation of this band's overstuffed toolbox-- confused, perhaps, but ultimately rewarding.


All Music

There certainly wasn't anything wrong with the vintage-pop-with-a-low-fi-twist that Saturday Looks Good to Me perfected over the course of five albums and many, many singles. However, it's also understandable why Fred Thomas would be ready for a change, especially after switching labels and recording studios for Fill Up the Room, and change abounds on the album. The most obvious difference between Saturday's earlier work and Fill Up the Room is that Thomas sings lead on nearly all of the album, and it takes some getting used to hearing his endearingly strained voice on rangy melodies like "(Even If You Die on The) Ocean." But Fill Up the Room doesn't just have a sound that's different from the previous Saturday albums' charmingly lo-fi updates of '50s and '60s pop. This album is, well, filled with different approaches that might not have fit in the past, but make perfect, and perfectly whimsical, sense here. The opening track, "Apple," announces the kinds of changes to follow: a winding, doo wop-influenced interlude, it sounds little like where Saturday Looks Good to Me -- or any of Fred Thomas' other projects -- have been before. He sounds liberated by the opportunity for change, and some of Fill Up the Room's most exciting moments are the most different. "When I Lose My Eyes"' epic swell and brass flourishes recall the Microphones' homespun-sounding symphonic indie pop drama (which underscores why K Records is such a good fit for Saturday Looks Good to Me). "Make a Plan" struts along on Latin-inspired guitars, telling stories about life's unpredictability, while "Money in the Afterlife"'s streamlined rhythms and skipping, Afro-pop guitar melodies make it a standout. As the album unfolds, Fill Up the Room gets closer to Saturday Looks Good to Me's previous territory, particularly on the sunny pop of "The Americans" and "Hands in the Snow," a bewitching kiss-off song that features Betty Marie Barnes' gorgeous voice caressing clever lyrics like "And I watch you drink invisible ink/So I won't know when you swallow your words." Thomas' ways with melodies and words are still the main attractions on Fill Up the Room, and songs spanning "Edison Girls"' cheery indie pop to the vulnerable, unsettling lullaby "Come with Your Arms" prove that those are constants in Thomas' music, no matter what else changes. Saturday Looks Good to Me fans who appreciated the spirit behind the music as much as its sound will enjoy all the curves Thomas throws on this album. Sweetly willful, cheerfully creative, Fill Up the Room truly is independent pop.


The Guardian

Everything about this album screams "acquired taste". Frontman Fred Thomas's off-kilter vocals could have been recorded as he stood in front of a mirror with a hairbrush, pretending to be Elvis Costello singing Belle and Sebastian songs; his quivering yelps blaze with enthusiasm but miss every note. The lyrics are prolix; the cluttered arrangements are held together by the thinnest of threads, stretched so taut they often snap. Allow yourself to acquire the taste, however, and this is an album to savour. Thomas is a dizzyingly impressive songwriter, verbose because he is constructing entire stories, heart-rending tales packed with epiphanies and insight. And there are enough other, sweeter voices here to ensure that his words are communicated beautifully as well as eccentrically. If the music is messy, it's because it's crammed with ideas. When I Lose My Eyes, the album's strangest, smartest song, is so frantically inventive that at one point it literally has to stop to catch its breath.


 

 


                                 

 

 

Word magazine

For over six years now, SLGTM's leader Fred Thomas has led his band with an admirably singular vision. An obsession with warped vinyl and AM radio, and a band rotation that would put Liverpool FC's Rafa Benitez to shame, have all ensured that this most indie of bands have stayed the preserve of the sort of people who think actually selling records is some kind of betrayal. Things could be about to change with the release of this rather special new album. Imagine a more soulful Belle & Sebastian or a slightly looser Magic Numbers and you're in the right area. Snare drums crack, reverb echoes and somehow, somewhere SLGTM have got hold of that '60s dust the La's Lee Mavers was so keen to find. The weekend starts here!

 



 

 

 

Q magazine

Saturday Looks Good To Me, from Iggy Pop's old patch, Ann Arbor, Michigan, are equally in thrall to the sounds of the '70s. Their fourth album, Fill Up The Room, offers pop kitsch with a knowing wink, singer Fred Thomas's arch sneer ofset by the sweetest of harmonies.

 


 

Artrocker

When Saturday Looks Good To Me’s mainman Fred Thomas started working on this album, he first sat down and listened to his favourite albums: “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel, “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, “Sung Tongs” by Animal Collective, and “Tigermilk” by Belle & Sebastian. The idea was to find inspiration, but something weird happened. Having just turned 30, he was hit with a desire to move on. Not to be inspired by his heroes, but to challenge them.

The result is an album that fuses all of the above with a wild, dizzying, restless spirit that sees Thomas break through into true greatness. When artists talk about song cycles that’s usually a cue to put on some Kylie, but “Fill Up The Room” is a deliriously plotted journey that throws itself headfirst into ebbs, flows and epiphanies: it's as if Thomas has just woken up from a revelatory dream and needs to lay it all down on tape while he can still remember.

So we travel from the doo-wop of “Apple” and the near-psychedelic indie pop of “(Even If We Die On The) Ocean” – featuring “children screaming speeches into microscopic tape recorders” – to the surging, howling, near seven minute, neo-folk genius of “When I Lose My Eyes”. We see Os Mutantes dance with Elvis Costello on “Make A Plan”, handclap and jive with the kids in corduroy on “The Americans” – in which “birds on the roof mutter names out of context” – and submit to tape loops and Appalachian weirdness on “Whitey Hands”.

By the end, those four albums lie shattered in tiny pieces, and “Fill Up The Room” has done just that. Records this good really shouldn’t come this late in the year, but SLGTM have just produced one of 2007’s finest.


NME

The latest by Michegan's notoriously erratic SLGTM has thankfully not emerged, as was rumoured, as a 10-hour rock opera. There's Prince-in-an-Arran-sweater melodies and Edwyn Collins-ish tweeness here. But despite sounding like a wired Richard Hawley colliding with a more eccentric Belle & Sebastian, there are occasional moments of decent pop.

 

Drowned In Sound

Those people familiar with the infamous (or just not-famous) club night and label How Does It Feel To Be Loved? will know fairly confidently what to expect from Michigan pop maestro Fred Thomas and his lengthy performing name, Saturday Looks Good To Me. These people are unlikely to be under 30 and to have ovaries, but Thomas' music is still curiously brilliant.

On previous records, most notably the wonderful All Your Summer Songs, the mission statement has been to recreate the Spector sound, to charm through nostalgia but, crucially, with the inclusion of modern sentiment. Littering records with the odd synth has also been pretty good, but you can't eat the same meal every day, can you? Similarly, stints on the road with full backing band have developed things and lent the milieu a distinctly garage band feel, and that's where Fill Up The Room fits in.

In truth, you only need one song from this album. It is, of course, quite heartening to discover that the remainder is also rather good, but here's the one you want: 'When I Lose My Eyes' is Fred Thomas duelling with the past and the present in a potent style. Almost seven minutes in length, it constantly has the sound of punk's most digestible twangs and clangs, but the soul and class of Sun Studios. Thomas sings of a growing love for his best friend, which is just about a modern enough narrative to stop the project from going stale, but the sheer calibre of the delivery means he could be singing about anything and still make it listenable. When the horns and strings arrive after some surf drums and wailingly obvious chord progressions, it's an epiphany. But when those lightly articulated horns and strings turn to jazz growls and aggressively dark bowing, we've gone straight to Ascension Day. You may be able to predict what's coming, you may be overly familiar with the references, but you're not ready for the whole package until you hear it.

Putting that particular song at number three in the running order would cripple most other records by continual comparison to an early highlight, but Fill Up The Room continues to delight. Not quite as much, that’s for sure, but it's valiant stuff. It's hard to argue with the well-judged melancholia and skilled arrangements of 'Come With Your Arms', Thomas' most Dylan-esque moment and an emotional core if ever there was one. It's also the most poetic song here, and it marks a deeper furrowing than on previous SLGTM records. Lines like "we climb and we clamour, we falter and scatter and fall off like leaves" is evidence that, as an artistic prospect, Fred Thomas is less concerned about the sound of his records and more inclined to work on the reasons he's writing. Finally, his heart has caught up with his head.

With a now-complete arsenal, Saturday Looks Good To Me records will hopefully continue in this fulfilling vein. While there's a small gap where the production genius of emulating all the warmest parts of Motown used to reside, the renewed emotional focus and the blistering intensity of certain moments on Fill Up The Room go some way towards compensating.


Observer

For all the hair-clipped crimes naive indie has visited on the world, in the right hands it can still melt hearts. Michigan's Saturday Looks Good To Me do plenty of that, specialising in swooning alternapop that sounds like Spector's Wall Of Sound scored by the lovesick boy-next-door. Songwriter Fred Thomas may not fully indulge his melodic sweet tooth here - there are instrumental jams present too - but even these shimmer with promise, setting up a delayed gratification that is made good on giddy confections such as the irresistable "Money In The Afterlife".


Room Thirteen

Saturday looks good to me, yes, well it used to anyway, just like when The Kinks sang "I like my football on a Saturday, roast beef on Sunday, alright" but that's from a distance time. These days it is very rare that my club plays an away game on Saturday given the demand of TV companies and for all the fans of Premiership teams, what has it been like this season? This weekend saw three games played on the Saturday and only one of them with a 3pm kick-off, its fair made a mockery of Match of the Day and given Match of The Day 2 a higher profile than its presenter probably deserves, the 6 days a week working chipmunk that he is. So on initial impressions, Saturday is not looking good to me, its dropping in goodness with every passing season.

However, that's just this writers opinion and Saturday is looking good to the new collective from Michigan (so they probably don't understand football or soccer much anyway) who turn out to be the latest American indie band offering up a sumptuous mix of melodies and off-kilter rhythms and lyrics. Theres definitely not enough use of the word "syphilis" in modern songs and the band have managed squeeze it into a song that is very reminiscent of The Shins on '(Even If You Die On The) Ocean'

And mention of The Shins allows a handy reference point to be made and it's a starting point but thankfully there is more to this than that comparison suggests. The drum-fills on 'When I Lose My Eyes' are more akin to the LCD Soundsystem and dance-floor filling shenanigans than the standard American clever indie record and keeps the listener on their toes.
Reading about the history of front man Fred Thomas does paint a picture of a man who constantly tries to bewitch and bewilder the public and no doubt he sees the albums variety as its main selling point. In reality, it is tricky at times to keep up with the inventiveness and run of ideas but if you can do so, then its rewarding.

The move from thrashing guitar workout to 60s girl-group backing to psychedelic overdubs occur in the space of a few seconds and repeated listens to this record are going to turn up gem after gem. At its hearts it's a bit twee but when that tweeness is masked by so many overlays and instruments, its easy to forgive the wetness and appreciate the groovy moments. The album is called 'Fill Up The Room' and if they took all the instruments that were used to create this record, they would be very likely to fill a large sized room.

There are fills that which the young listener will sound like Razorlight but take it from us, this will be because Johnny B was influenced by bands like Blondie or The Modern Lovers as their spectre hangs over a lot of what Saturday Looks Good To Me offers. 45 minutes for a thirteen track album isn't overly long but it seems much longer, due to the amount of different styles and approaches being levelled at the listener and overall, it's a winner. You may feel as though you need a lie-down at the end of the record but after that, get back on your feet and give it another whirl.


Yahoo Music

What goes around, it seems, comes around. British indie-pop at its purest has long worn its heart on its sleeve like a badge of honour and likewise the influences that fuel it: Lou Reed's pitch-perfect chord sequences for the Velvet Underground at their most tender, the harmonious swoop of the voices that filled Brian Wilson's head and Phil Spector's realisation of the drama of broken hearts and ripped innocence are all cornerstones of a sound that's filled the bed-sits of many an awkward indie kid. The irony, of course, is that fundamentally this is an American sound.

Granted, it's the sound of an America that died when The Rolling Stones nailed the coffin shut on the '60s at Altamont but one that still resonates to this day. As exemplified by Ann Arbor, Michigan natives Saturday Looks Good To Me's latest platter - their seventh - the ripples are still being felt across the Atlantic. So much so that opener "Apple" feels like a pastiche rather than a tribute. Too obviously in thrall to the Brill Building's output or the street corner serenades from the other side of the East River, its effect jars with the equally inconsequential "(Even If You Die On The) Ocean". And then, as you're just about ready to give up the ghost, we have lift off.

Like Dorothy emerging into the Land of Oz, "When I Lose My Eyes" is the moment "Fill Up The Room" shifts from a dull monochrome into a Technicolour bloom. Like a gripping story, the track builds slowly before shifting dynamics from one guitar burst to another as singer Fred Thomas sighs: "Me and my best friend sleep without any clothes / With books on the bedspread, in languages no one knows". Tender stuff indeed and the presence of Belle & Sebastian is keenly felt on the triptych of "Peg", "Money In the Afterlife" - which sounds remarkably like Stuart Murdoch taking on Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" - and "The Americans".

And therein lies "Fill Up The Room"'s drawback. Too often - check the Os Mutantes-referencing "Make A Plan" - Saturday Looks Good To Me show off their influences rather than building on them. But taken on its own terms, there are moments that beguile. The clap-happy jangle pop of "Edison Girls" is a joy, while "Come With Your Arms" is a thing of delicate and fragile beauty. By turns delightful, melancholy and a little infuriating, Saturday's not only looking but sounding pretty good, too.


Uncut

Eight years into his quixotic pop campaign, Fred Thomas has found his natural home on the dancefloors of the UK's classicist indie discos - to the extent that his fourth album is being released on one of these club's offshoot labels. It's breezy, jangling stuff, though without the lyrical guile or melodic invention of, say, Stephin Merritt or Stuart Murdoch. Two highlights, "Hands In The Snow" and "No Reaction" suggest Thomas might leave the singing to bandmate Betty Marie Barnes more often.


 

 
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how does it feel to be loved? record label - home of butcher boy, the uk label for "fill up the room" by saturday looks good to me

 

 

 

 

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